After my recent adventure with the Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition DAC/KHV witch was not the "right one" for me, i have to praise Mr. Rossi from Red Wine Audio. He was really polite and understanding and offered me another unit in exchange without any costs...after i respectfully declines that offer he sent me my money back. Nice customer service !!!
After i read a lot of the new Auralic KHV/DAC Combi, i drove from Hamburg to Essen (in Germay) what is about 270 miles away to meet with the only dealer in germany who has Auralic in stock.
So my first test was my Audeze LCD-3 with the Auralics:
My KHV/DAC so far is the Lehman Audio Black Cube Linear and the cheap but nice sounding Musical Fidelity V-DAC II. The source was as follows:
MacBook Air -> Apple Lossless -> iTunes -> Amarra to the DAC via USB.
The Auralic outclassed my Lehmann and not by a small margin. It sounded a bit like the Red Wine Audio but without it flaws. The sound is very dynamic and energetic. This combi costs 3.800 Euro in germany. so the price is pretty much like the Red Wine Audio. We tried the Sennheiser HD800 just for fun and it was a good match. My friend even prefered the HD800 over my Audeze LCD-3.
This could have been the end and we all could have listen happily ever after....but my dealer has his so called "Reference Line-up" on display.
The MalValve head amp three
Thats really a strange animal:
10 tubes (looks life a solid state amp, but is an 100% tube amp)
Can drive any dynamic Headphone BUT also any Stax model.
Relais driven Volume in 0,7db steps
2x12 Watts output in XLR Mode
Pricing is 4.000 Euro - so i guess it will cost about 5.500$ US
More Informations on the manufactors website: http://www.malvalve.com/head3.html
(The website is horrible and dosen't do their products justice...)
His reference DAC is the well acclaimed PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC MK II
I never heard my Audeze LCD-3 with that kind of perfection. Everything seems to fall in it's place. Even so the Auralic DAC/KHV seems to play more dynamic or powerful the MalValve makes it clear that the Auralic is just a little bit sounded. The MalValve/PS Audio were much more "rock solid".
The Bass was depp AND controlled. You can here so much detail that i am tempted to use the term "jaw dropping"....i know i know ;-)
The mids are energetic, there is no more "veiled" or recessed sound, if there were any at all.
The highs a brilliant and have this sparkle you can enjoy with a good recording.
The soundstage is the biggest win. Even if it wasn't bad til now, in this combination it is a huge leap.
But we couldn't resist to test drive the ultimate competitor for the LCD-3, the Stax SR009 against each other using the same DAC/KHV for the first time possible. And yes...that was brilliant and has a winner: The Audeze LCD-3 is the better fit for Jazz and Rock.
But even with classic the improved soundstage of the LCD-3 is not far behind the SR009. The bass, the live-character and "PRAT" is absolutely world class with the LCD-3.
And so here is my dream combination...
MalValve Headamp Three + PS Audio PWD + Audeze LCD3
And what a dreams for? it is a 11.000 to 12.000 US $ rig!
I did it...i bought them right away and they are playing in this very moment while i am writing this thread:
I am so happy. This is by far the best what i have heard with all kinds of headphones over the years. I must admit that i haven't had the chance to hear eather the Cavalli LF or the Ray Samuels Darkstar but after one week of listening to the Red Wine Audio who is believed to be in this TOTL amps i have to tell that the MalValve is on the same level if not ahead. Anyway it is the combination....it really makes the magic.
I really reached my Mount Olympus of the headphone world...at least for the time being ;-) -- we all know this hobby but i think i am in this for the long run.
Edited by Sven - 7/22/12 at 2:29pm